every-heart-a-doorway-book-review

This is a rather quick review, but I couldn’t skip over this enchanting book. Every Heart a Doorway was my kind of strange, and I don’t think I’ve been this in love with a storyline/premise in a long time. As others have mentioned on Goodreads, it’s dark, atmospheric, and heartachingly lovely. There was something so unsettling about these characters who have traded in their own families and “old lives” for other worlds—the worlds they truly belong to.

My issues with the book were twofold: (1) It was too short, in my opinion. I wanted much, much more. There were so many worlds I wanted to learn about, and the character development had so much potential. (2) Going along with character development, while I LOVED the characters and wanted more from them, I wasn’t wholeheartedly invested in them. I was more intrigued and infatuated by them, to the point that some of the murder mystery scenes fell flat to me.

I think part of the issue for me was the dialogue at times felt a little stilted. I loved the conversations and how philosophical they were, but occasionally it felt as though the author used dialogue as a device to explain certain ideas or quickly summarize worldbuilding from the individual worlds these characters called home. The characters I really loved had the most distinct voices, and it showed in the dialogue (e.g., Sumi and Jack).

Overall, the length and character questions I had didn’t bother me that much. I was still totally enthralled, and the “Girl Interrupted” vibes were ON POINT. So many gorgeous quotes. I would love to see this as a movie.

sweetbitter-book-review

“Taste, Chef said, is all about balance. The sour, the salty, the sweet, the bitter. Now, your tongue is coded. A certain connoisseurship of taste, a mark of how you deal with the world, is the ability to relish the bitter, to crave it even, the way you do the sweet.”

“I know you. I remember you from my youth. You contain multitudes. There is a crush of experience coursing by you. And you want to take every experience on the pulse.”

—Stephanie Danler, Sweetbitter

This book will forever leave a sweet-bitter, craving-it-always taste in my mind. I devoured it.

This coming-of-age foodie story is so much more than a young twenty-two-year-old girl moving to New York City on a whim, stumbling into a coveted job at a top NYC restaurant. It’s about remembering, having experiences instead of just wanting them, and oh, every page aches with loneliness—truly.

Tess, our main character, is unhinged, desperate for love and belonging, and she finds family—dysfunctional as it may be. Let’s just say “sweetbitter” is more appropriate than “bittersweet” for a title, because sweet-and-then-bitter is the direction of Tess’s journey. I’d say it’s more of a love story between Tess and NYC: all of the magic, fascination, and heartache were uncomfortably raw and emotionally honest. I couldn’t put it down. I truly felt as though I were reading someone’s most private secrets on the page. It was intimate beyond belief, even eating an apple in the street.

The dialogue was so real; the characters were damaged. I feel like I’m waking up from a dream, and all I can say is I have absolutely developed a fifth taste for fiction. This level of authenticity is the only flavor worth pursuing!

Visit my BookTube channel for more ramblings about this book.

DISCLAIMER: This is an R-RATED book with vulgar language. You can’t accurately capture restaurant culture—especially in NYC—without that grit. If this bothers you in any way, you may not want to read this book.

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“Because we don’t have your typical gaps around here. Not gaps made of rocks or mountains. We have gaps in the world. In the space of things. So many places to lose yourself, if you believe that they’re there. You can slip into the gap and never find your way out. Or maybe you don’t want to find your way out.”

I can’t even begin to sum up this weirdly stunning, magical book.

I absolutely loved everything about it. But then again, I seem to like most YA contemporaries these days with a little magical realism sprinkled in for good measure. Well, that’s not entirely true; it’s not easy to get it right. But when an author does get it right? Good gracious, I have GOOSEBUMPS.

This book takes place in Bone Gap, Illinois—a small town with just a drop of magic and a whole lot of chatter from eclectic neighbors. Laura Ruby has one of the most original voices I’ve come across, especially in this genre. In Bone Gap, we follow the stories of Finn “Moonface” O’Sullivan; his brother, Sean; Roza, a beautiful girl with beautiful scars; and Petey, the daughter of a beekeeper whose sting is worse than any bee. There are many other voices of Bone Gap that unravel in this work of fiction, and my whole reading experience was a dreamlike state of falling in love with each one. It was difficult to distinguish reality from dream—just as I like it.

I loved Finn’s character, but Roza and Petey were two of the most well-drawn, complex girls I’ve seen in a while. They are so very different, yet both of them have been burned by what the world identifies as beautiful.

She was too delicate for that strong, scratchy voice, as if her birdlike outside was just a pretty little tale she liked to tell, and the true story was something she kept deep down inside.

Most of the narrative is from Finn’s viewpoint, but we also learn about other characters’ pasts, including Roza, a beautiful girl who would rather not be seen. When she goes missing in Bone Gap, no one believes Finn’s story that she was abducted. He was the only witness, but Finn is called Moonface for a reason. He’s known as Sidetrack. Spaceman. No one believes him because everyone thinks he’s “just a little spacey.” While it’s true that Finn seems to zone out, there are a few things he can’t get out of his head. Roza’s disappearance haunts him. Without giving anything away, I will say this: There’s a reason Finn can’t describe Roza’s captor, and it makes for an intriguing, unreliable narrative.

In Bone Gap, Finn learns about bees and how to find the queen in a cluster swarming all around. He learns that beekeepers spot the queen by the way she moves more than anything else.

“It’s hard to describe. It’s as if she walks in a more determined way … The best way to see her is to let your eyes lose their focus, let things get a bit fuzzy on you. See the bees as a whole rather than individuals. When you do that, you understand the entire pattern. The queen’s movements will stick out because they’re so different from everyone else’s.”

This is exactly the effect Bone Gap had on me. Laura Ruby’s masterful storytelling almost summoned me to see the world a little out of focus, to see the uncertainty, the magic, the love and loss—all running together like honey on a spoon. This is a book about perspective. It’s about fairytales, how we see ourselves and how we see other people, how to look beyond the way others see us and overcome the labels and expectations that grieve us. It goes without saying that this is now one of my all-time favorite books.

To show you just how captivated I was, I found myself humming a little tune and ended up playing a little something on the Uke—because, well, I tend to gravitate toward songs about books and I haven’t found one about this book yet. It’s nothing to write home about and I’m not sure reading it without the tune is very helpful, but hopefully, if you’ve read the book, you’ll appreciate some of the words.

“Moonface”



Night mare in a honey sky

Girls who sting and boys who cry

Boys who see and girls who slip into the gaps

We’re flying with the ghosts

You’re talking to the corn

And I’m waiting for you just beyond the dark

And this is where we find all that makes us blind

And everything we left behind

And this is where we met

And all the things we wish we’d said

Everything that fell into the gaps

We count them, people disappeared

Buzzing by, everything we feared

Falling asleep with your head in my lap

Oh we’re falling, falling, falling in the gaps

Just beyond these bones

Just beyond these honeycombs

We’re falling, falling, falling in the gaps

And when you see my face

I know we’re in that secret place

We’re falling, falling, falling in the gaps. 

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

“To many I was myth incarnate, the embodiment of a most superb legend, a fairy tale. Some considered me a monster, a mutation. To my great misfortune, I was once mistaken for an angel. To my mother, I was everything. To my father, nothing at all. To my grandmother, I was a daily reminder of loves long lost. But I knew the truth—deep down, I always did. I was just a girl.”

I tend to believe that most people cannot easily come to grips with identity or the strange and beautiful sorrows of life until they unravel the stories of their family histories and peel away the layers of where they come from.

I also tend to believe that, like author Leslye Walton’s strange kinship with the daffodil, some people can achieve beauty only after a long, cold sulk in the rain.

As I read The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, narrated by the peculiar and enchanting Ava Lavender herself, I felt as though I were hiding out with her in a secret place, marveling with her at the mysteries wedged between generations of unspoken and relentless suffering and love.

It was as if we had stumbled upon a box of journals or pictures we weren’t meant to find—as if we had blurred the lines that separate mother and daughter, reality and dream, or stranger and ghost. It was, in truth, like standing in a rainstorm having a long sulk, as Walton puts it, “pondering the logic, or rather, lack thereof, in love—the ways we coax ourselves to love, to continue loving, to leave love behind.”

This story, sprinkled with magic realism, chronicles the many ways love and pain have shaped the different generations of a hollow family. Told through the familiar but subtle hum of a traditional, pure fairy tale, Ava Lavender intimately invites readers into her story, which begins with the generations of the Roux family—all of whom have learned that love makes us such fools.

The generational saga explores themes of love and love lost, and every scene is so vividly painted. Walton knows how to weave a story using the five senses; she also knows how to create a character with wings in a painfully realistic way. Ava is a peculiar girl, and not simply because she was born with wings.

Her family seems to pass along a gene of strange, beautiful sorrows—beginning with her great-grandmother, Maman; grandmother, Emilienne; and mother, Viviane. These characters, along with the Roux siblings and Ava’s twin brother, are portrayed so well, I actually had to reread small details because they were so damn lovely.

Sixteen-year-old Ava dives into her family’s past and peers into the cavernous hearts of her mother, grandmother, and others long gone—constructing what is so poignantly described on the inside cover as “a layered and haunting mythology of what it means to be born with a heart that is tragically, exquisitely human.” I wholeheartedly agree, and could not describe it any better.

Quite honestly, it was the perfect book for me. It was magical and dreamy but also dark and violent. There’s so much more I could say, but I would urge anyone interested in this book to stumble into reading without knowing much about it, as I did, because the tiny details that deepen characterization are what will make you fall in love with this book.

I could share countless lyrical quotes that—I promise you—will be etched into my heart for a long time, but I don’t want to steal that from you. All I can say is that I’ve found a new favorite. Completely unexpected. Completely mesmerizing. I cannot wait for Leslye Walton to write more books.

book-review-speak

In honor of Banned Books Week, I thought it only fitting to talk about the one and only Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Every now and then you read a book that grips you so fiercely, you know you carry a chunk of it with you wherever you go. I’m not talking about book hangovers, I’m talking drunk-in-love, full-on-can’t-stop-won’t-stop-smiling-or-crying stories.

Ironically, Speak left me speechless. A friend recommended this book to me and my sister bought it for me for Christmas (it was first published in 1999), so it was an inevitable read for me. Cheryl Klein also mentions this contemporary young-adult classic in her book (Second Sight: An Editor’s Talks on Writing, Revising, and Publishing Books for Children and Young Adults) during a talk on amazing first lines in children’s and young-adult books. And it’s true; from the first line—the first paragraph—I was hooked.

Speak is a game-changer: a book to be passed from generation to generation. Far from the stereotypical “teenage outcast” story, Speak is beloved by readers of all ages, regarded as “tough, tender, and darkly funny.” Melinda Sordino is a character readers immediately sympathize with, no matter how long it’s been since they’ve walked through the halls of high school and all the insecurities and secrets buried there. Speak is a story about how some secrets bury you, not the other way around. And some secrets, some traumas, are too heavy to bear.

Speak is like a dark room, and Laurie leads readers in with a small light that slowly grows brighter, repelling downward into an honest depiction of what loneliness and trauma and depression is really like for high school kids.

While we’re invited into this pit of despair, she doesn’t leave us there—Melinda’s snarky and quirky personality is funny and light, and we emerge with her, ourselves transformed.

I have to admit I was often stunned reading this novel: Not only because of Melinda’s funny, authentic voice and the witty writing, but I was enamored by her metamorphosis and touched by her introspection—which, surprisingly, did not slow down the pacing of the novel.

In a sense, she is clever and tough, and yet most readers throughout the years are sensitive to her struggle; there is a certain vulnerability Laurie masters. I mentioned in my most recent book review that Jodi Lynn Anderson, author of Tiger Lily, is a master of showing rather than telling. It must be an Anderson thing; but Laurie just may have her beat.

Rather than choosing to write, “My mom is exhausted from working all the time,” she writes, “We stop at a traffic light. Mom closes her eyes. Her skin is a flat gray color, like underwear washed so many times it’s about to fall apart. I feel bad that I didn’t fold more shirts for her.”

Instead of writing, “I was haunted by this secret, and I felt sick about it,” she writes, “There is a beast in my gut, I can hear it scraping away at the inside of my ribs. Even if I dump the memory, it will stay with me, staining me.”

This book demonstrates the importance of Banned Books Week and why we should celebrate the freedom to read. I have no doubt this book will continue to captivate readers of all ages, but perhaps more importantly, it continues to remind teens living with trauma and depression that they are not alone.